University of Victoria PhD candidate Kristina Kowalski

University of Victoria PhD candidate Kristina Kowalski

Never too old to put pep in your step

Researcher seeks inactive seniors to study cognitive benefits of walking

Phyllis McCormand slings her leg of the back of a park bench at Clover Point on Dallas Road and leans into a deep stretch. Later, she’ll smile before gracefully bending forward and pressing her hands flat against the ground.

At 88, McCormand has no problem following along as personal trainer Kristina Kowalski leads her through a brief stretching session. McCormand cannot, however, participate in a study recently launched by Kowalski, also a PhD candidate in the University of Victoria’s school of exercise science, physical and health education, and the department of psychology.

McCormand starts her day with an hour-long walk through Lambrick Park, so when she heard Kowalkski was looking for 100 seniors to participate in a study that aims to uncover the cognitive and physiological benefits of walking, she was keen to sign up and help Kowalski with her research. But she couldn’t – she was already too active.

“She felt that I walked around the park too much, ran up and down the stairs too much,” said McCormand, who also participates in exercise sessions at The Victorian, a retirement residence in Gordon Head. “I don’t scientifically pay any attention. I just walk.”

Kowalkski is currently recruiting people over age 65 who aren’t meeting Health Canada’s physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, for an 8-week study slated to begin in August.

Walking groups will likely take place near the Gorge, UVic, Lochside, Dallas Road and Elk Lake. Kowalski plans to begin groups with lower intensity, 15-minute walks at the start of the study and build to 30 to 45 minutes of moderate intensity by the time her research is through.

Kowalski will track her findings through questionnaires, walking tests and the use of a pressure sensitive mat to measure gait – an indicator of cognitive function, she said.

“I have a unique background in both kinesiology, exercise science and I’ve always had a big interest in brain health,” said Kowalski, who holds a bachelor of science in kinesiology and psychology and a master’s in clinical neuropsychology.

“There’s a growing need to look at that area, because we do have a larger population of older adults. It’s a rapidly expanding portion of our population and physical activity is a way to promote our health as we age.”

Strengthening Kowalski’s argument on the merits of an active lifestyle is 71-year-old Bob McMillan of Victoria – another ineligible participant in Kowalski’s study, given that he already walks four to five times each week on the Dallas Road pathway.

McMillan has reduced function in one leg as a result of polio as a child. While his leg is the reason he gave up golfing and skiing, two of his favourite activities, it has also caused him to ramp up the activities in which he can still participate, such as routine walks.

“You’ve got to do something to keep the body going,” McMillan said. “You do what you can do.”

Kowalkski aims to develop programs geared toward maintaining cognitive and physical health, boosting independence and quality of life, and reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. “We can’t control things like genetics, but there’s a lot we can do to promote our brain health.”

Kowalksi doesn’t just walk the walk when it comes to her academic pursuits. When she’s not crafting her dissertation, the competitive triathlete is swimming, running and biking her way around town. Last year alone she competed in nine triathlons.

“It’s a great place and a great time to be doing this,” she said.

“Maybe if some of the people in a (retirement) home see this, they might be motivated to do the same,” McMillan added.

For more on Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds – a supervised walking program for older adults, call 250-472-5288 or email kkowalsk@uvic.ca.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney Jon Blair said he would have died if a van and car had collided at the intersection of corner of Resthaven Drive and Brethour Avenue in early December. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney senior urges motorists to slow down on Resthaven Drive

Jon Blair said community must become more pedestrian-friendly

Bob Joseph, author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, will be available for a Q&A through the Vancouver Island Regional Library Jan. 28. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Regional Library)
Q&A on the Indian Act with Bob Joseph open to Greater Victoria residents

Bob Joseph is the author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act

Tarpaulin-covered tents sit next to one of the ponds in Beacon Hill Park. The location of the Meegan community care tent has still not been nailed down, as Victoria council rejected the recommendation offered by city staff. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Location of care tent for Victoria’s Beacon Hill campers still not settled

Council roundly rejects Avalon Road site, road’s edge on Cook Street appears the top alternative

Coaches with the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey association have had to get creative during their weekly practices to keep players interested and improving their skills without physical contact. (Damian Kowalewich photo)
West Shore minor hockey coach shares what it’s like on the ice without parents, fans

Most practices consist of relay races, goalie shots and passing drills

The Songhees Wellness Centre is a symbol of First Nations strength in the region. Representatives of local First Nations will soon play a greater role in decision making and governance relating to the Capital Regional District. (Courtesy Royal Roads University)
Capital Regional District to add First Nations representatives to advisory committees

Board approves bylaw, looks forward to Indigenous input on future decisions

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree-planting life on Vancouver Island featured in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)

Most Read